The New Paltz Police Department (NPPD) will no longer be getting assistance for special details from the SUNY New Paltz Police Department, as it has in the past. SUNY Police chief Dave Dugatkin recently notified the NPPD and the Town of New Paltz that, due to a labor decision, “It was mutually decided upon that the practice of the University Police Department (UPD) officers voluntarily signing up for NPPD special details such as parades, bar checks, etc., must be temporarily suspended as of this date.”

He added that, due to “jurisdictional and liability concerns, all parties agreed to readdress the issue when and if UPD officers are granted statewide jurisdiction.” Chief Dugatkin was quick to point out that this union decision does not affect his department’s existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the NPPD, whereby the two enforcement agencies can call on each other for assistance or backup during an emergency situation.

According to NPPD chief Joe Snyder, prior to this ban on special details by the UPD, it assisted the NPPD with approximately 12 parades/events per year, as well as “25 to 50 non-emergency calls (lockouts, alarms, PDAAs, extra patrols, etc.) per year.”

While the chief said that it would certainly have an impact on his department and its budget, this change would not “cause our budget to fall apart.” He noted that, while “every little bit helps in accomplishing our goals in coverage,” the NPPD also receives assistance from Department of Environmental Conservation officers, the New York State Police, the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department and the New Paltz Fire Department “in order to keep costs down when we have parade details.”

The chief also emphasized that the SUNY Police Department “has been a wonderful asset to our agency, and in the past I understand this is a state union issue and not circumstances created by the New Paltz SUNY Police Department.” He said that SUNY Police officers statewide have a new union “that has ordered the discontinuation of non-emergency off-campus assignments and details.” Praising Chief Dugatkin and the working relationship that the two enforcement agencies have, he said that he and Chief Dugatkin “both look forward to the resolution of this situation so we can get back to business as usual. And hopefully, with the change in legislation recognizing SUNY Police Department officers for statewide jurisdiction, it may end up being an overall better situation for even more assistance by their agency in the future.”

Town supervisor Susan Zimet considered the recent statewide ban on UPD officers assisting local agencies in off-campus details and assignments a “slap in the face to our community that is overtaxed, but still needs to assure the safety of the students when they are downtown.”

She added that her understanding of the historical context was that originally, the SUNY Police “used to be ‘peace officers’ and didn’t have the same rights as our NPPD officers do. When SUNY peace officers were lobbying for police officer status, the Police Chiefs’ Association fought against it. A coalition of mayors, supervisors and police chiefs from SUNY campuses across the state came together to lobby the Police Chiefs’ Association to allow SUNY campus peace officers this upgrade in status, since our police departments needed the help of SUNY officers. [Former long-term Village of New Paltz mayor] Tom Nyquist and I were a part of that coalition, which successfully helped lobby for that change.”

Councilman Jeff Logan felt that the memo was not clear, and that more questions need to be raised on the issue. “The university is a great asset to our community,” he said. “I would even say that New Paltz is the community it is due to the university. A large portion of our services are used by the SUNY community, with little support from the university. The village is able to bill for water and sewer, and with its 6,000 users at the college, it is the largest single user and ratepayer. Can the town send a bill to the state for the use of our other services? There are thousands of fire calls, ambulance and police needed for the students residing and recreating in the community. I would like the town to look into sending a tax bill to the state based on assessed value of the campus, just like every other property-owner in our town.”

He added that he did not see “how this decision was made based on ‘jurisdictional and liability concerns,’ when [the] SUNY Police Department receives their official powers through the Education Law and the Criminal Procedure Law. These authorize a State University Police officer to make warrantless arrests based on probable cause; to use appropriate force in making an arrest; to issue uniform appearance tickets and traffic summonses; and to execute arrest and bench warrants throughout the state. Why punish the community the university wants to be part of?”

Councilwoman Kitty Brown said that she has asked for this to be put on the town’s next agenda so that they can discuss it further. Councilwoman Jean Gallucci — also the town’s liaison to the Police Commission — said that the issue “was touched on briefly at the Police Commission meeting and is a union issue. It is not as simple as one would think.”

The next Town Board meeting is scheduled for this Thursday, May 17, 7:30 p.m., at Town Hall. ++